– What is the most important issue facing the Board of Education, and how would you propose to deal with it?
The most important issue facing the School Board is also the hardest one to address alone – class size and composition. The School Board doesn’t have the resources or the mandate to address this issue, until the province of B.C. makes a decision to engage. What will it take for that to happen? It could be another two years before this issue gets into court, so we’re in for the long haul, and the delay is not benefiting students, parents or teachers.
2. Should the school district sell surplus school sites to help fund capital projects in Willoughby?
I don’t believe that the School District should sell “surplus” school sites, because these sites were set aside for the use of future students in the Langley school system. If we sell off all the school sites in the south to build schools in the north, what do we do for future expansion in the south, if it’s needed? What do you do when all the school sites are sold and there’s another cash crisis? School sites can’t be reclaimed once they’re gone, as they are often located in central areas which are very desirable for developers – and very expensive.
3. Is there enough timely communication between the board and the two local governments regarding development and its impact on school population?
I believe that the Township of Langley was under the impression that the province of B.C. would fund a school, if the Township allowed development, and the School Board could quantify the number of new students that would be entering the system from that development. Now the Township has a quandary – do you continue to allow breakneck development, if there is no money to build schools? If funding was in place today, and shovels were going into the ground, it would still take several years before a school was ready to be used. What do you do in the meantime? There are no good answers – there are only the least unpalatable alternatives.
4. What is the best way to deal with class size and composition issues, so that all students get the maximum attention from teachers?
Sadly, this is a question without an answer. Class size and composition is the most crucial problem that we face, not just in Langley School District, but across the province. In order to get additional help in the classroom, the child needs to be diagnosed with a learning disorder by a health professional – but in many cases, students wait for months if not years, in order to get that diagnosis. If parents choose to get a private diagnosis, it can cost thousands, which is often an unaffordable alternative. In the absence of a diagnosis, and in the absence of help from special educational assistants, a teacher can find him/herself trying to meet multiple levels of needs from multiple students at one time. Who loses out? Everyone. The government of B.C. must be called upon by all stakeholders to resolve this ongoing conundrum. In the meantime, students, parents and teachers are hanging on by their fingernails.